By Web Master, 9-13-12
Is the Flathead destined to become the LOST Best Place? It’s a serious question. Ask tourists, new businesses, and most residents and they will tell you they came to the Flathead because it truly is one of the Last Best Places in the country.
Ask economic development specialists and they will tell you that the Flathead’s world-class landscapes, small and friendly towns, and quality of life are the unique strength we have in today’s economy and one that attracts businesses and jobs.
They will also tell you it will take thoughtful planning to retain those qualities.
In 2007, after nearly 10 years of meetings, a community consensus was reached to rewrite the 1987 Flathead County Growth Policy to reflect 20 years of change.
Five years later, the commissioners-directed update of the growth policy was the subject of a public hearing in mid-February 2012.
Some argued that growth policies and smart growth were all part of a United Nations Agenda 21 scheme to create a one-world government that would lead to the elimination of all property rights. A few argued that the growth policy needed to be watered down so it could not be used to challenge decisions that the commissioners made. But we and others provided support for the proposed demographic and economic updates that were the bulk of the work done during the workshops of the previous year.
Over the following months and with a turnover of some planning board members, significant new wording to sections of the growth policy was inserted. After that, policies and goals that were originally crafted with broad public participation were eliminated or reworded.
A new public hearing allowed comment on the new draft document, but the planning board directed staff not to include where changes had been made, saying the public could figure it out! At that June hearing some 80 individuals, organizations, and agencies presented extensive comments opposing the newest changes the planning board had suggested. Only five individuals spoke in favor of the planning board changes.
How often do you drive through the valley right now? Do you find it increasingly harder to get from point A to point B? Have you noticed more signs and driveways and entryways and traffic lights?
That isn’t simply a function of more people. It’s a function of poor planning. Soon you won’t be able to tell when you have left one town and are on the outskirts of another, and it will take you longer to get there!
Removing policies that protect water quality or reduce traffic congestion may make it cheaper for some individuals to develop in the short term, but everyone loses in the long run. Think about it. Are we just the Last Best Place until it’s Lost?
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